LINCOLN, R.I. — A demonstration at the Statehouse in Providence last week may have had some impact on Bally’s Twin River and Tiverton casino smoking policies.
Members of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 271 held a rally with Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi in the Statehouse Rotunda in support of her bill seeking to end an indoor tobacco product smoking exclusion for casino operations even as Gov. Daniel J. McKee was holding a signing of the state’s new adult recreation use marijuana law outside on the front steps of the building.
Tanzi’s bill, H 7855, would in effect, include casinos under the state law prohibiting smoking in workplaces.
“Casino workers are Rhode Islanders, parents, caregivers, taxpayers and human beings, and they deserve the same protections as everyone else in our state,” Tanzi, D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown and Narragansett, told the gathering.
“It is fundamentally wrong to say that no one should be exposed secondhand smoke in the workplace, but carve out an exception that leaves one group of workers not only unprotected, but in fact, bathed in smoke every day,” Tanzi said.
“There’s no excuse for continuing to endanger their health, and we need to pass this bill to let them breathe safely like everyone else,” Tanzi said.
Lynn Dupre, who dealt for eight years at Bally’s Twin River and Bally’s Tiverton, told of how she transferred from the Lincoln location to Tiverton shortly after it opened, according to Meredyth Whitty, a House spokesperson.
The casino employee took a pay cut and drove a longer commute with the expectation that facility’s newer ventilation system would improve her health, according to Whitty.
Eventually however, the second hand smoke again began to take its toll as Dupre continued to work in a smoke filled environment at the casino.
“Simply put, there is absolutely no way to have a smoking casino which is not harmful to its employees’ health,” Dupre told those attending the rally.
Linda Jabrin, a blackjack dealer at Bally’s Twin River, told how during the two years when smoking wasn’t allowed indoors at the casino, its customers were generally cooperative about going outside to smoke instead.
“Let me ask a question. How many of you smoke or have a close family member or friend who smokes? Do they smoke in your house or do they go outside? COVID has sent all smokers outside and most are happy to do so still,” Jabrin said.
Bally’s Inc. spokesperson Patti Doyle said on Friday that Bally’s had announced it would not be allowing marijuana smoking inside its two Rhode Casino Hotels in light of the state’s move on Wednesday to legalize the adult recreational use of marijuana but would allow marijuana use outdoors at the casinos.
“We also made a change to our smoking policy today,” Doyle said.
“Smoking is no longer permitted at the live tables,” Doyle said of Bally’s policy on indoor smoking of tobacco products.
“Customers who wish to smoke must do so at the perimeter of the table games. Ashtrays at the tables have been removed,” Doyle said of Bally’s tobacco smoking policy change.
The new marijuana law signed by Governor Daniel J. McKee outside the Statehouse last week legalizes the sale or possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an adult resident of the state and also allows for possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana at an adult’s home, where up to three marijuana plants may also be grown.
The law also includes a provision for automatic expungement of past marijuana convictions within the legal limits of the new law as July 1, 2024, or sooner under an included petition process.
The change for adult recreational use of marijuana is expected to allow existing approved medical marijuana distribution operations to add recreational sales after Dec. 1 and will also establish a process for approval of new retail cannabis sales businesses in Rhode Island.
Supporters of tobacco smoking ban at casino operations maintain that the exclusion from state law is no longer needed given the example of casino operations in Massachusetts and Connecticut where most casinos do not allow indoor smoking
Tanzi’s legislation was heard by the House Finance Committee on April 13 and held for further study, according to Whitty.